War crimes in the Kosovo War: Wikis


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U.S. Marines provide security as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forensics Team investigate a grave site in a village in Kosovo on July 1, 1999.

The War crimes in the Kosovo War were a series of war crimes committed during the Kosovo War (early 1998June 11, 1999). These include attacks on Serbian civilians and security forces by the Kosovo Liberation Army, as well as criminal actions by Serbian military and police against the KLA rebels and Albanian civilians.

According to Human Rights Watch, the list of the major war crimes also includes abuses committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, such as kidnappings and summary executions, but "the vast majority of the violations over the past year (January 1998 - April 1999) are attributable to the Serbian police or Yugoslav Army".[1]

In Serbia, Serb policemen who fought Albanian militants in Kosovo are still revered by many as war heroes[2][3], while on Kosovo some of the internationally recognized terrorists[4] were awarded "Hero of Kosovo" title.



During 1960s Yugoslavia, the Albanians in Kosovo constituted around two thirds of the population. From 1961 to 1981, 103,000 Serbs and Montenegrins left Kosovo, largely due to pressures by the Kosovo Albanian government and population.[5] "57,000 Serbs have left Kosovo in the last decade" due to murder, rape and persecution - wrote the New York Times in 1982.[6]

The nationalists have a two-point platform - first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater Albania.
Becir Hoti, an executive secretary of the Communist Party of Kosovo[6]

Asked about position of Kosovo Serbs before Milosevic's rise to power, Ibrahim Rugova (deceased Albanian leader) answered: "Unfortunately, many crimes were committed against the Serbs."[7] Slobodan Milošević gained great power by pledging to discontinue this repression. He abolished Kosovo's autonomy in 1989. With his rise, the Albanians started boycotting all state institutions and ignoring the laws of the Republic of Serbia. Serbia tried to maintain its political control over the province. With the formation of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a large number of the Kosovo Albanians became radicalized.

In 1997 international sanctions were applied to Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, because of persecution of Albanians from Kosovo.[8].

KLA war crimes

Holy Trinity Church in Petrić in July 1999, leveled in August 1999.[9]

Kidnappings and summary executions

According to the Tribunal informations, 97 Kosovo Serbs were kidnapped during the 1998.[10]

According to a Serbian government report, from January 1, 1998 to June 10, 1999 the KLA killed 988[11] people and kidnapped 287[11]; in the period from June 10, 1999, to November 11, 2001, when NATO had been in control in Kosovo, 847[11] people were reported to have been killed and 1, 154[11] kidnapped. This comprised both civilians and security forces personnel: of those killed in the first period, 335[11] were civilians, 351 were soldiers, 230 were police and 72 were unidentified; by nationality, 87 of killed civilians were Serbs, 230 Albanians, and 18 of other nationalities.[11]

Organ theft

In 2008, Carla Del Ponte published a book in which she alleged that, after the end of the war in 1999, Kosovo Albanians were smuggling organs of between 100 and 300 Serbs and other minorities from the province to Albania.[12] ICTY and Serbian War Crimes Tribunal are currently investigating these allegations, as numerous witnesses and new materials have recently emerged.[13]

List of other attacks on Serbs

Incomplete list of crimes:

Serbian war crimes

Serbian military, paramilitary and police forces in Kosovo have committed a wide range of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law: forced expulsion of Kosovars from their homes; burning and looting of homes, schools, religious sites and healthcare facilities; detention, particularly of military-age men; summary execution; rape; violations of medical neutrality; and identity cleansing.[15]

Report released by the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, May 1999

Persecution of Albanians

Serbian police and the Yugoslav Army were in spring 1999. "in an organized manner, with significant use of state resources" conducted a broad campaign of violence against Albanian civilians in order to expel them from Kosovo and thus maintain political control of Belgrade over the province.[16]

Mass grave of Račak victims.

According to the legally binding verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Federal Army and Serbian police after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia 24 March 1999, systematically attacked villages with Albanian population, abused, robbed and killed civilians, ordering them to go to Albania or Montenegro, burning their houses and destroying by their property.[17] Within the campaign of violence, Albanians were mass expelled from their homes, murdered, sexually assaulted, and their religious buildings destroyed. Serbian forces committed numerous war crimes during the implementation of "joint criminal enterprise" whose aim was to "through the use of violence and terror, force a significant number of Kosovo Albanians to leave their homes, across the border, the state government to retain control over Kosovo."[16] Ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population is performed by the following model: first the army surrounded a place, then followed the shelling, then the police entered the village, and often with them and the army, and then crimes occurs (murders, rapes, beatings, expulsions...).[17]

Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy was imposing sentence said that "deliberate actions of these forces during the campaign provoked the departure of at least 700,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo in the short period from late March to early June 1999."[16]

Massacres of Albanians

Incomplete list of massacres:

An Albanian woman crying in front of the 1999 war victims memorial in center of Đakovica.

Identity cleansing

Identity cleansing was a strategy employed by the government of Serbia during the Kosovo crisis of the late 1990s.[33][34] Identity cleansing is defined as "confiscation of personal identification, passports, and other such documents in order to make it difficult or impossible for those driven out to return".[35]

Expelled Kosovar Albanians were systematically stripped of identity and property documents including passports, land titles, automobile license plates, identity cards and other documents.[36] In conjunction with the policy of expelling ethnic Albanians from the province, the Serbian forces would confiscate all documents that indicated the identity of those being expelled. Physicians for Human Rights reports that nearly 60 percent of respondents to its survey observed Serbian forces removing or destroying personal identification documents.[37] Human Rights Watch also documented the common practice of "identity cleansing": refugees expelled toward Albania were frequently stripped of their identity documents and forced to remove the license plates from their vehicles.[38] This criminal practice suggesting the government was trying to block their return.[38]

In addition to confiscating the relevant documents from their holders, efforts were also made to destroy any actual birth records (and other archives) which were maintained by governmental agencies, so as to make the "cleansing" complete[39] (this latter tactic sometimes being referred to as archival cleansing[40]).

This practice received worldwide condemnation, and evidence of it has been brought at the war crimes trials held at The Hague.

NATO war crimes

Civilian casualties

Grdelica train bombing, footage from the TV-guided missile.

The Serbian government and a number of international pressure groups (e.g. Amnesty International) claimed that NATO had carried out war crimes during the conflict, notably the bombing of hospitals, schools, building apartments and power plants. The Serbian TV headquarters in Belgrade was attacked on April 23, 1999, where 16 people were killed and 16 were injured. Sian Jones of Amnesty stated, "The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime".[41] The ICTY conducted an inquiry into these charges,[42] but did not press charges, citing a lack of mandate.

Incomplete list of civilian casualties:

War crimes trials

Indictments to Serbian leaders

Slobodan Milošević, along with Milan Milutinović, Nikola Šainović, Dragoljub Ojdanić and Vlajko Stojiljković were charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) with crimes against humanity including murder, forcible population transfer, deportation and "persecution on political, racial or religious grounds". Further indictments were leveled in October 2003 against former armed forces chief of staff Nebojša Pavković, former army corps commander Vladimir Lazarević, former police official Vlastimir Đorđević and the current head of Serbia's public security, Sreten Lukić. All were indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. Milosevic died in ICTY custody before sentencing.

The Court pronounced the following verdict[17]:

  • Milan Milutinovic, former President of the Republic of Serbia and Yugoslav Foreign Minister, acquitted.
  • Nikola Sainovic, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, guilty on all counts, sentenced to 22 years in prison.
  • Dragoljub Ojdanic, Chief of General Staff of the VJ, guilty to two counts, sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Nebojsa Pavkovic, commander of Third Army, guilty on all counts, sentenced to 22 years in prison.
  • Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of the Pristina Corps VJ, guilty of two counts, sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Sreten Lukic, Chief of Staff of the Serbian police, guilty on all counts, sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Nikola Sainovic, Nebojsa Pavkovic and Sreten Lukic were convicted as members of the joint criminal enterprise, while others are convicted of aiding and abetting crimes.[16]

War crimes prosecutions have also been carried out in Yugoslavia. Yugoslav soldier Ivan Nikolić was found guilty in 2002 of war crimes in the deaths of two civilians in Kosovo.

Indictments to KLA leaders

The ICTY also leveled indictments against KLA members Fatmir Limaj, Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi, indicted for crimes against humanity. They were arrested on February 17–18, 2003. Charges were soon dropped against Agim Murtezi as a case of mistaken identity, whereas Fatmir Limaj was acquitted of all charges on 30 November 2005 and released. The charges were in relation to the prison camp run by the defendants at Lapušnik between May and July 1998.

On March 2005, a U.N. tribunal indicted Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj for war crimes against the Serbs, on March 8 he tendered his resignation. Haradinaj, an ethnic Albanian, was a former commander who led units of the Kosovo Liberation Army and was appointed Prime Minister after winning an election of 72 votes to three in the Kosovo's Parliament in December 2004. Haradinaj was acquitted on all counts. The Office of the Prosecutor has appealed his acquittal, and as of July 2008, the matter remains unresolved.


  1. ^ "Kosovo War Crimes Chronology". Human Rights Watch. http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/kosovo98/timeline.shtml. 
  2. ^ a b Serbia jails ex-policemen for Kosovo massacre
  3. ^ Serbia detain nine in Kosovo massacre
  4. ^ Book: Tim Judah, Kosovo, War and Revenge
  5. ^ Ruza Petrovic; Marina Blagojevic. "Preface". The Migration of Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo and Metohija. http://www.rastko.rs/kosovo/istorija/kosovo_migrations/mk_preface.html. 
  7. ^ History of Kosovo, the Bloody Diamond: Serbian land or Albanian? European Heritage
  8. ^ EU o sankcijama Jugoslaviji početkom septembra: Ništa od ublažavanja
  9. ^ THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, in Petrić near Peć
  10. ^ Po naređenju: ratni zločini na Kosovu (Izveštaj Human Right Watch-a)
  11. ^ a b c d e f "(Killed, kidnapped, and missing persons, January 1998 - November 2001)". Government of Serbia. http://www.arhiva.srbija.gov.rs/news/2002-07/08/325076.html. 
  12. ^ Organ smuggling in Wall Street Journal
  13. ^ Le Figaro - Flash actu : trafic d'organes/Kosovo: aucune trace
  14. ^ Po naređenju: ratni zločini na Kosovu (Human Right Watch)
  15. ^ Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo (U.S. Department of State Report)
  16. ^ a b c d The verdict of the Hague Tribunal (serbian)
  17. ^ a b c Presude "kosovskoj šestorki" (dobavljeno 28.12.2009.)
  18. ^ Racak massacre haunts Milosevic trial
  19. ^ Massacre described at Kosovo war crimes trial
  21. ^ Article about massacre at Velika Kruša in polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza
  22. ^ CNN: Massacre video matches mass grave evidence
  23. ^ "OSCE Daily Broadcast Media Overview" unmikonline.org 28 March 2000 Link retrieved 05-01-2010
  24. ^ Drenica Region Massacres (Feb-March 1998)
  25. ^ Serbs attack Kosovo massacre reports
  26. ^ The Killings at the Hysenaj Compound of Gornje Obrinje
  27. ^ Qyshk victims
  28. ^ Massacre of Over Sixty Villagers Near Bela Crkva
  29. ^ Survivors describe massacre in Kosovo
  30. ^ Under orders: war crimes in Kosovo
  31. ^ HRW Report
  33. ^ Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases, by Inc Icon Group International
  34. ^ Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo
  35. ^ Sustainable development in crisis conditions, by Phillip J. Cooper, Claudia María Vargas
  36. ^ Human geography in action, by Michael Kuby, John Harner, Patricia Gober
  37. ^ Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting
  38. ^ a b Under orders: war crimes in Kosovo
  39. ^ Human Rights Practices - 2002
  40. ^ Libricide: the regime-sponsored destruction of books and libraries in the XX century, by Rebecca Knuth
  41. ^ Amnesty: NATO bombing of Serbian TV 'war crime'
  42. ^ "Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". United Nations. http://www.un.org/icty/pressreal/nato061300.htm. 

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